Saturday, November 10, 2007

Getting to know a unique capital city

[Lorraine says:] Its a lazy weekend. John has managed to wiggle his way into all kinds of music stuff already, had a band practice today and has a gig tomorrow (I’ll let him post the details).

We are still getting to know our new hometown. I thought I’d post a list of some of the unique aspects of life here in Iqaluit. (OK, I now know there are other Nunavummiut [Nunavut residents] who are reading our blog, and this is old hat to you guys, but to us it is still intriguing and fun...)

1. No-one uses street names. Everything is identified by building number. And the numbers are not necessarily in logical order according to where they are located – they are numbered according to the approximate time they were constructed. So when you use the local transit system [the taxis, see below], you say, “I’m at 1619 and I need to go to 1107”, for instance, to get from a house to work.

2. The Road to Nowhere: There are names on the streets, even though no-one uses them. The best name has got to be The Road to Nowhere. Guess where IT leads? (like all roads in town, it eventually just peters out. There are no roads that go to other communities).

3. Public transit = taxis: There are no buses or public transit. If you can’t walk and don’t have a vehicle, you use the taxis, which have a flat rate ($6) for each person, no matter where you go. It is truly amazing to see these kamikaze drivers hurtling around these icy arctic roads in old cars that (for the most part) look ready to fall apart any minutes. We are dedicated to walking, though, and are trying to not use taxis.

4. This town is a Suzuki commercial: Some people do drive, and there are way more trucks and cars than when I was here in 2001. The favourite vehicle seems to be Suzuki Trackers or other little Suzuki SUV’s. John and I had a Suzuki Tracker up until two years ago and we LOVED it. Here, the roads are polluted with them. We will NOT get one though [she keeps saying to herself, reminding herself of the commitment to walk everywhere].

5. Culturally appropriate signs: This is a trilingual town, and you hear a mix of English, French and Inuktitut everywhere. I’m surprised at how much all three languages get used in my workplace (but English is still the dominant working language). It’s great to see how everyday items, like signs, however, have a unique Nunavut / Inuit cultural twist. For instance, stop signs and bathroom signs, including bathroom signs showing women wearing amautiks [see below]:

6. Culturally and climate appropriate clothes: OK, there are a LOT of gorgeous traditional parkas and coats and winter wear here. (More on that another day.). One of my favourite, though, is the amautiks that you see women wearing, with babies poking their heads out the back (or hunkered down staying warm if they chose). Here is an example of an amautik:

7. Iqaluit has its own superhero: I’m not pulling your leg: there really is someone who thinks he is (and acts like) a benevolent superhero. “Polarman” wears a mask and toque and cape, and goes around doing good deeds like shovelling snow. Tonight we were at a coffee house and he miraculously showed up right at the end to help pack up chairs and tables. Now how many capital cities can claim a THAT....

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